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Autism Support Group fosters connection

Ryan Bennett, sophomore in communication, Bella L’Heureux, senior in biology, and Lizzie Skidmore, senior in nursing, discuss a topic during an autism support group meeting on Oct. 28. The group meets overy other Thursday in the Overman Student Center. Dominic Santiago

The Autism Support Group is a group on campus that aims to create a space that disabled and non-disabled people can meet and connect. The group works to support members when they are going through large life events or daily struggles.

“So, the Autism Support Group is about bringing people with disabilities and people without disabilities together to support each other and build relationships,” said Ryan Bennett, sophomore in communication.

Bennett hopes that more students will join the group whether they have disabilities or not.

“Oh absolutely, I would recommend it to anybody. If they’re looking to build relationships and just talk absolutely, I would recommend it,” Bennett said.

He joined the organization after his peer mentor recommended it to him. The group is important to him, and he believes it can help anyone that joins.

“I think it’s important that this group exists because people with autism or any kind of disability like myself struggles socially, so I think this group is important because it kind of gives other people with disabilities an opportunity to build relationships,” Bennett said.

The group holds meetings on alternating Thursdays inside the Overman Student Center. The goal of the meetings is to provide a space for members to talk about their week and how they have been feeling.

“We talk about how each of our lives are going, what’s going good, and what’s going bad,” Bennett said. “We also try to plan social outings like eating out at a restaurant and that kind of stuff. And we talk about what could we do to promote this group to get people in.”

Autism Support Group also plans events for members to participate in such as dinners and outdoor activities. The organization also holds events during Autism Awareness Month in April.

“In September we had snow cones at Tropical Snow, and we’ve also done a table in April of 2020 for Autism Awareness Month and also just promote the group,” Bennett said.

Bennett said he has developed many friendships from his time with the organization and wants to encourage other students to get involved also.

“Join Autism Support Group. It’s a great way to build close friendships with people and you’ll have lots of fun,” Bennett said.

Many members joined looking for an environment to express themselves in.

“It seemed like a just fun social interaction and good way just to meet people and hopefully find friends,” said Mark Rice, graduate student in mechanical engineering.

Members have an open space to talk about their feeling and the problems they face on a daily basis.

“It’s important because it feels like they let everybody involved speak their mind regardless of what issue might be had,” said Mark Rice.

Rice summarized the goal of the group a few sentences.

“This is a mostly social club that gets together every couple week and just we basically just hang out. We talk about the way our lives have been going, and just if there’s any issues, we all try and find ways to help them,” said Mark Rice.

More information about Autism Support Group can be found on Gorilla Engage.

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